The first pneumatic tyre was invented in 1845 by RW Thompson, but it didn’t catch on and solid rubber tyres continued to be used as they were more durable, but were hard on road surfaces.
Then in 1888 John Boyd Dunlop ‘reinvented’ the air filled tyre, which was initially fitted to bicycles. In 1895 Andre and Edouard Michelin fitted them for the first time to automobiles, they consisted of an inner tube that was protected by an outer casing that also gave traction. The outer casing was constructed of rubber embedded with layers of fabric cords that ran across the tyres at around 45 degrees -hence the name ‘cross plys’.
In 1948 Michelin introduced the radial tyre that gave better miles per gallon. The strengthening fabric ran at 90 degrees across the tyre tread and mostly steel belts were added into the side walls – hence steel belted radials.
Almost all tyres on the roads today are radial tyres.
The tyres forms an integral part of the suspension, traction and braking systems on a car and as a result are often developed specifically for a particular model. Each new tyre since 2012 has a sticker showing Fuel efficiency, road grip, braking distances and noise levels.
In the UK we mostly use Summer or All Season tyres, but Winter tyres are becoming more commonplace. Below 7 degrees Celsius they offer better grip and improve traction on slippery surfaces as the tread blocks are thicker, and a softer compound than summer tyres. If you’re planning a drive ski trip they’re worth looking into. But above 7 degrees they wear fast and their grip diminishes.
Technology built into tyres is huge, they are more than just a rubber wheel cover. Up to 30 ingredients to into the construction of the 1 billion manufactured annually.
Generally tyres are robust and strong, but when their structure fails is can be very dramatic and dangerous. At town speeds a tyre failure is an inconvenience, but if one explodes on the motorway all the traction control, anti skid, anti lock braking and stability management systems will struggle enormously to regain control. They all rely on good road to tyre traction to work properly and with a disintegrated tyre they have their work cut out.
High or low pressures cause premature and uneven wear as does incorrect steering geometry. The manufacturers suspension set up, vehicle weight distribution and tyre design all have impacts too.
You are always very welcome to pop in to check your pressures and the wear. We can normally compete on branded tyre prices although some of the larger fast fit chains buy in huge bulk and have perpetual offers to entice custom through the door. If you just want advice or air we will always readily give both.